430,000 People Died from AIDS Due to COVID-19 Lockdown, Says NACA

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By Onyebuchi Ezigbo

The National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) has said 430,000 persons in sub-Saharan African may have lost their lives due to the six months interruption in treatment caused by COVID-19 lockdown.

Quoting statistics from United Nations AIDS Control programme (UNAIDS), NACA said the rise in the death toll came against a significant drop in Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) within the period of the COVID-19 lockdown.

In a bid to scale up intervention efforts, NACA added that it would require an additional investment of $2.4 billion to be able reach the United Nations’ epidemic control target in the next three years.

The body, which is the lead agency driving the federal government’s efforts to tackle HIV-AIDS epidemic, said the amount would be needed to identify and treat additional 540,000 persons living with HIV by testing 50 million persons to know their status.

While presenting the 2020 quarterly performance factsheet at a press conference in Abuja, the Director-General of NACA, Dr. Gambo Gumel Aliyu, said a total of $6.2 billion was spent to identify and treat 1,080,000 of the estimated persons living with HIV from 2005 to 2018.

Of the $6.2 billion investment, NACA said $5 billion (about N1.2 trillion) were sourced from the international donors.

The NACA DG, whose presentation centred on the impact of COVID-19 on HIV response, status of the epidemic, investment over the last decade and HIV infrastructural support for COVID-19, said about 25 to 30 percent of COVID-19 tests were conducted using HIV mega laboratories in the country.

He also said HIV sample transfer mechanism was adopted for COVID-19 response in four a states.

“Over 15,000 HIV community volunteers from HIV stakeholders are supporting contact tracing, social mobilisation and the fight against stigma and discrimination,” he said.

The NACA DG statesd that currently, the prevalence rate of HIV in Nigeria is 1.3 percent, that is, 1.8 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in the country.

He noted that between 2005 and 2018, a total of $6.2billion was spent to identify and treat 60 percent (1,080,000) of the estimated person living with HIV in the country.

Aliyu further stated that over $5billion (N2.1 trillion) of the above sum came from international donors-United States Government, PEPFAR programme, or Global Funds.